Yesterday, I talked about a defenseman the Leafs might target in Logan Stanley. Today we’re going to shift to basically the exact opposite player in Samuel Girard.
#AfterAuston today features shifty offensive defenseman Girard, who plays for the QMJHL-championship-finalist Shawinigan Cataractes. Girard very well could be that kind of high-ceiling talent the Leafs would look for when drafting.
Watching Girard play is quite the exciting experience. At least it is for me. The way he protects the puck on zone entries reminds me so much of our own Morgan Rielly. He moves the puck within his reach so skillfully that, despite being small, it’s hard to get the puck off of him.
Girard would qualify, for me, as the definition of a powerplay quarterback. The way he manipulates Junior-level penalty kill schemes with such ease really displays his skill level.
His ability to get up and down ice with control in a hurry is really impressive, though it usually manifests on the powerplay. I’m excited to see his development to see if that vision translates to reading NHL-level neutral zone schemes, and whether his transition game can be a significant influence on team possession at the NHL level. I think that would be a hugely positive element to his game to focus on grooming.
The other benefit from his elite-level vision, besides transition, is his ability to pass the puck in the offensive zone. Albeit against Junior-level defensive schemes, his plays on the puck are crisp and accurate in the offensive zone (again, usually manifested on the powerplay).
Here is a quote from Jérôme Bérubé of Hockeyprospect.com:
Toughest to rank and project of any player in the QMJHL. His puck skills and vision are high-end, but his size is an issue. I believe he will find a way to become a PP specialist at some point in the NHL. On skills alone, he’s a top-10 talent in this draft.
What a fantastic summation of Girard, and all the disparity that surrounds him. It’s for this reason that I compared and contrasted him to Logan Stanley in my last post. The two defensemen have wildly varying opinions circulating about them, and both are very intriguing prospects to watch for where they land in the upcoming draft.
Standing at only 5’9″ and weighing 162 lbs., there’s no question Girard has some size to add. However, it’s the production stats where Girard really takes leaps and bounds above his competitors. I showed a graphic comparing Stanley and Girard last post, let’s check out a comparison (courtesy of Brandon Dennis’ tableau page) with Girard and top-tier defenseman from this class, Olli Juolevi:
Originally looking at the graphic comparing Stanley and Girard, I was concerned with the large component of Girard’s points that coming from the powerplay. However, when you compare with Juolevi, not only does he eclipse him in powerplay points, but also in even strength production. That should be a huge chip on Girard’s shoulder.
(Before you tell me about how the scoring in the Q is higher, check your facts. Over the last 3 seasons, average GF/GP in the is 3.45 in the OHL, 3.42 in the QMJHL. Basically the same. Thanks to reddit user /u/lmhuge for getting me started with the data.)
One concern I do have for Girard, besides the size, is his SOG totals. There’s been noted concerns that he doesn’t have a quality shot, and the totals reflect that. He was only able to get 87 shots on goal this past season. That’s less than half of the league leader for defensemen, Niklas Brouillard (who the Marlies recently signed to a contract for next season). Obviously, his talents display more as a playmaker, which is fine, but without on-ice SOG/Corsi numbers, it’s hard to tell how much of an effect he’s having in that regard.
SHOULD THE LEAFS BE INTERESTED?
I think the answer should resoundingly be yes. This is a common theme with me, but if you can get a player with that level of production at 30/31, I think you’d be silly to pass it up. When that 30 pick comes around, I’d be very surprised to see Girard still on the board. But, if he’s there, I’d have a hard time swallowing it if the Leafs passed him up.
His future projection seems to line up as a 2nd pairing, 1st powerplay unit, offensive juggernaut. Morgan Rielly v2.0? “You may say I’m a dreamer”, but I don’t think the comparison is as far off as you’d initially think. Only time will tell for certain.